View of Gulmarg from gondola
|State||Jammu and Kashmir|
|Elevation||2,650 m (8,690 ft)|
|• Official||Kashmiri, English, Urdu and Pahari|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
Gulmarg is a town, a hill station, a popular skiing destination and a notified area committee in Baramula district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The town is situated in the Pirpanjal range in the western Himalayas.
Originally named Gaurimarg ("the fair one") by shepherds in honor of the Hindu goddess Parvati, the resort was renamed Gulmarg (“meadow of flowers”) by Sultan Yusuf Shah of the Chak Dynasty who frequented the place with his queen Habba khatoon in the 16th century. Wild flowers of 21 different varieties were collected by the Mughal emperor Jahangir for his gardens in Gulmarg. In the 19th century, British civil servants started using Gulmarg as a retreat to escape summers in North Indian plains. Hunting and golfing were their favorite pastime and three golf courses were established in Gulmarg including one exclusively for women. One of the three golf courses established survives to the present day and at an altitude of 2,650 metres (8,690 ft) is the world's highest golf course. In 1927, British established a ski club in Gulmarg and two annual ski events were hosted one each during Christmas and Easter. Central Asian explorer Aurel Stein also visited Gulmarg during this period.
After the end of London colonial rule, Gulmarg became a part of the independent princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. To ensure the accession of the princely state, Pakistan planned an invasion of the state called Operation Gulmarg. One of the routes used by the invading militia of Pathan tribesmen, armed and supported by Pakistani regular troops, passed through the Haji Pir pass and Gulmarg onto the state capital Srinagar. Gulmarg fell to the invading army, but the Indian army led by the 1 Sikh Regiment, which had been airlifted to Srinagar only after the Dogra ruler of the state Maharaja Hari Singh had signed an Instrument of Accession with India on 26 October 1947, successfully defended the outskirts of Srinagar. Thereafter, Indian counterattack pushed the tribesmen backwards and many towns including Gulmarg were recaptured. In 1948, Indian Army established a ski school in Gulmarg which later became the High Altitude Warfare School of the Indian army specializing in snow–craft and winter warfare. On 1 January 1949, the war ended under UN supervision and a Ceasefire line (CFL), which was rechristened the Line of Control (LOC) by the Shimla Agreement of 1972, came into being close to Gulmarg.
Post Indian Independence, Indian planners sought to develop a destination for Winter sports in India. The Department of Tourism of the Government of India invited Rudy Matt, in 1960 to select a suitable location for such purpose. Matt zeroed in on Gulmarg as suitable location for development of a Winter sports destination in India. In 1968, Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering was established in Gulmarg to train ski instructors. Over the next decade Indian planners invested ₹30 million (US$450,000) to transform Gulmarg into a world class ski destination. Gulmarg became a centre for skiers from Asian nations. In mid-1980s, Heli-skiing was introduced in Gulmarg in collaboration with the French skier Sylvain Saudan of Himalaya Heli-Ski Club of France.
In the 1990s, the rise of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir affected tourism in Gulmarg. With the abatement of terrorism in the area, tourism started to recover in late 1990s. Work on the cable car project between Gulmarg and Apharwat Peak, which was commissioned in 1988 by Government of Jammu and Kashmir but was subsequently abandoned due to militancy in 1990, was resumed in 1998. In May 1998, Phase 1 of the project, between Gulmarg and Kongdori, began its commercial operation. In May 2005, Phase 2 of the project was also inaugurated making it one of the longest and highest rope ways of Asia. The chairlift installed as a part of Phase 3 of the project began its operations in 2011. India’s National Winter Games were held in Gulmarg in 1998, 2004 and 2008. Tourism in Gulmarg was affected again by a grenade attack in 2008 killed one tourist and injured five others. In 2014, Government of Jammu and Kashmir drafted a Master Plan–2032 for Gulmarg. The plan includes development of a solid waste treatment plant on 20 acres of land close to Gulmarg.
Gulmarg lies in a cup shaped valley in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, at an altitude of 2,650 m (8,694 ft), 56 km from Srinagar. The soil in Gulmarg comprises glacial deposits, lacustrine deposits and moraines of pleistocene era covering shales, limestones, sandstones, schists and other varieties of rocks. The natural meadows of Gulmarg, which are covered with snow in winter, allow the growth of wild flowers such as daisies, forget-me-nots and butter cups during spring and summer. The meadows are interspersed by enclosed parks and small lakes, and surrounded by forests of green pine and fir. Skiing and other winter sports in Gulmarg are carried out on the slopes of Apharwat peak at a height of 4,267 m (13,999 ft). Many points on Apharwat peak and Khilanmarg offer a panoramic view of Nanga Parbat and Harmukh mountains.
|Climate data for Gulmarg|
|Average high °C (°F)||0.7
|Average low °C (°F)||−7.9
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||158.8
At the 2011 Indian census, Gulmarg had a total population of 1,965 over 77 households. Male population in the town stood at 1,957 while there were only eight females and no children between the ages of 0 and 6 years. Gulmarg had an average literacy rate of 99.24%, compared to the state average of 67.16%, of which male literacy was 99.23% and female literacy was 100%. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes constituted 0.61% and 0.15% of the population respectively. Gulmarg has few permanent residents with most residents being tourists or those involved in the tourism industry. Gulmarg is also a destination for nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes which migrate to upper reaches of Himalayas during summers in search of pasture.
According to CNN, Gulmarg is the "heartland of winter sports in India" and was rated as Asia's seventh best ski destination. The town is accessible from Srinagar by road via Tangmarg. The road climbs uphill in the last 12 kilometres to Gulmarg passing through forests of pine and fir. Winter sports like skiing, tobogganing, snowboarding and heli-skiing take place on the slopes of Mount Apharwat reachable by a Gondola lift.
Built by the French company Pomagalski, the Gulmarg Gondola is one of the highest in the world reaching 3,979 metres. The two-stage ropeway ferries about 600 people per hour to and from Gulmarg to a shoulder of nearby Mt. Apharwat Summit (4,200 m (13,780 ft)). The first stage transfers from Gulmarg at 2,600 m (8,530 ft) to Kongdoori at 3,080 m. The second stage which has 36 cabins and 18 towers, takes passengers to a height of 3,950 m (12,959 ft) on the Apharwat Peak (4,200 m (13,780 ft)). A chair lift system connects Kongdoori with Mary’s shoulder for taking skiers to higher altitude. The high inflow of tourists has had an effect on the fragile eco-system of Gulmarg and activists have demanded tightened regulation to save the environment of the area from over tourism.
Gulmarg has been the shooting location many Bollywood films like Bobby, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Highway, Phantom, Haider, etc. A scene in Bobby was shot in a hut in Gulmarg that later come to be known as 'Bobby Hut'. An annual three-day Gulmarg Winter Festival is held in March. Budding artists in the fields of music, films and photography are given an opportunity to showcase their work during the festival.
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